Dr. Martin Luther King waves to supporters on the Mall in
Washington D.C., August 28, 1963
As America marks the 50th anniversary of a landmark speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, it’s fitting to ask the most important question: has the ‘dream’ of a just society built upon a foundation of morality and equality actually been fulfilled?
Or is it merely a collective delusion that all must accept?
Dr. King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, before the assembled masses on that summer day in 1963 as the United States slowly but surely charted a course for war in Vietnam. He stirred the emotions of black Americans with his talk of freedom and brotherhood while overt and institutionalized racism in its myriad insidious forms was still the dominant force, not only in the South, but throughout the country.
He spoke of “the fierce urgency of now” at a time when the country was divided by race, class, and generation. King sought to lay out a vision of a better America and a better world while grounding his words in the harsh realities of the urban ghetto, the rural sharecropper, and the labor of the black worker.
And yet, while referring to the founding fathers and the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation, King never lost sight of the fact that his role was not simply as a man who delivered stirring speeches or led marches deemed ‘acceptable’ by the ruling establishment. Rather, he understood perhaps better than anyone that his responsibility to his people and to all people in the US and beyond, was to speak the truth with righteous indignation, and to rail against inequality and injustice in all its forms.
As the political establishment in the United States marks this momentous anniversary, it is simultaneously planning to rain death and destruction on the people of Syria. As the first black president, described by many delusional sycophants as being the “inheritor of the legacy of Dr. King,”continues to serve the interests of Wall St. and the military-industrial complex at the cost of the poor and most defenseless in society, it is fitting to re-examine King’s words in a critical light.
More than merely examining what King said, it is incumbent upon all those who today are on the same quest for peace and justice that he was on, to come together and ask the most important question: What would King say if he saw what this country has become?